June 16, 2004


MDs warn of syphilis outbreak (Nicholas Kohler, National Post, June 16th, 2004)

Weary of safe sex, Canadians are dropping their AIDS-scare precautions to fuel a countrywide outbreak of syphilis that has seen a five-fold rise in the sexual scourge over the past five years.

According to Health Canada, syphilis nearly doubled between 2002 and 2003, a heady climb for a sex bug that conjures up scenes of 19th-century depravity but which many thought was all but wiped out.

Last year, syphilis jumped from 1.5 cases per 100,000 people in 2002 to nearly three cases. During the mid-1990s, the rate was 0.5 cases per 100,000.

At the same time, chlamydia rates soared almost 70%, while gonorrhea climbed 40%.

The syphilis outbreak is concentrated mainly in the gay community, where those hit by the infection often also suffer from HIV/AIDS, said Paul MacPherson, an infectious diseases specialist at the Ottawa Hospital's General campus.

The increase has doctors scrambling to re-educate a Canadian population suffering from "safe-sex fatigue" following years of prudence in the wake of the AIDS epidemic. "Across the board, we're seeing major lapses in safe sex," Dr. MacPherson said.

Note that one must read carefully to get a clue as to exactly who these fatigued Canadians are that are being so careless. That human rights faux-pas is quickly corrected by the good doctor, who assures us this is an "across the board" plague. The whole weary population is messing up.

But who needs more education? Doesn't the man realize gay marriage is the answer?

Posted by Peter Burnet at June 16, 2004 1:29 PM

A jump from 1 per 100,000 to 3 per 100,000 is not an epidemic. It is a very small percentage, the health authorities shouldn't worry so much. There is always some 5% or so of the population that will kill themselves off through sheer stupidity no matter what measures are taken in their behalf.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at June 16, 2004 1:56 PM

probably a correlation with recent immigration.

Posted by: J.H. at June 16, 2004 3:14 PM

Pendulums swing.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at June 16, 2004 5:58 PM

A rate of 3 per 100K for any serious ailment would generally be regarded as a striking success.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 16, 2004 7:36 PM

The denominator is misstated, make that 3 per 1,500 if the "concentrated mainly in the gay community" and 3% of Canuk men are gay.

Posted by: Ripper at June 16, 2004 11:10 PM

The funny thing about small numbers is that numerically small differences can make for very large rates of change.

If we go a year without a major airline accident, which, absent Islamofascists is not at all unheard of, then have one, the rate of change from 0 to 1 is, well, infinite.

But not very meaningful.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at June 17, 2004 7:26 PM

Most people are innumerate, including reporters and politicians, so meaningless stories like these will continue to get press and generate legislative excesses.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at June 18, 2004 2:44 PM